Stevia

  • Plant Type: Tender perennial
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Plant Size: 1 to 3 feet
  • Culinary Use: Sweet leaves in tea

Stevia is often called sweetleaf for a reason—the bright green leaves contain natural, calorie-free sweetness. A member of the chrysanthemum family, stevia has been cultivated for generations in South America and is used widely as a commercial sweetener in Japan. In the U.S. stevia is sold as a nutritional supplement (for diabetics and dieters) and grown by gardeners looking for something unique and sweet in their herb mix.

Plant after all danger of frost has passed. In most areas, grow as an annual and expect stevia to die back during the first freeze. In zones 9 and 10 it is a perennial that is killed by frost, but will come back from the roots. In zone 8, protect the roots to increase the chances of it coming back the next spring.

Plant Spacing: 18 inches. Plants Per Person: 1 to 2.

Secrets to Success »

Give stevia enough room to develop into a bush. Stevia prefers loose, well-drained soil, so it’s perfect for containers; choose a pot at least 12 inches wide. Feed with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. Stevia produces small white blooms in fall; trim flowers to promote leaf growth. Plants lose vigor after the second year, so even where it can be grown as a perennial, you may want to replace the plants in spring.

Harvest and Use »

Stevia’s leaves are sweet anytime, but are the sweetest when nighttime temperatures are cool and before blooming. In cooking, heat releases the sweetness; steep leaves with tea, or use warm water to make an extract that can be used to sweeten tea, coffee, fruit, and desserts.

Try these garden companions »

  • Mint, catnip, and bee balm, also good for flavoring teas.
  • Melons: cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon.
  • Strawberries.

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